Tribal roles in emergency and health planning
| 05.18.2006 | 07:01:48 | Views: 2807 | ID:
May 18 '06: A letter sent in January from the Department of Health and Human Services to Native tribal leaders around the country summarized the importance of coordination of health and emergency services with state and local leaders in the event of a pandemic caused by the H5N1 avian flu virus.
In the letter, Assistant Surgeon General Charles W. Grim, DDS, MHSA said, "I believe it is very important that all (Indian Health Service) IHS and Tribal levels collaborate to ensure the most effective and appropriate coordinated response," and that a "table-top" exercise with Area Chief Medical Officers will be conducted with tribal officials "to deal with a simulation of a pandemic influenza outbreak."The letter to tribal leaders reflected a larger effort by HHS "to foster a 'One-Department' approach to combating bioterrorism and other public health threats and emergencies," according to a press release last summer. Under the plan, HHS along with other federal, state and local agencies would help to coordinate emergency medical personnel who "are much more likely to encounter real or potential victims than are the traditional first responders to evident emergencies." Federal efforts to help Native nations include $3.2 billion in annual federal funds for 2007 which would include about $1.6 billion "To enable tribes to develop the administrative infrastructure necessary" to manage basic health services, though no federal money was allocated to help with emergency coordination with federal and state officials. However, according to the National Response Plan, "a unified and standardized approach within the United State for protecting citizens and managing homeland security incidents," would be coordinated among federal, state, local and tribal emergency personnel and communities. At the announcement of the NRP, then Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge said, "With the National Response Plan our nation and its federal, state local and tribal response communities now have a comprehensive, all hazards tool for domestic incident management across the spectrum of prevention, preparedness, response and recovery." But according to the National Congress of American Indians, "Tribal officials are not included in the current dialogue about national homeland security advisory systems and emergency preparedness and planning." Additionally, tribal governments "are not included in funding" for emergency preparedness programs. In the letter sent to tribal medical officials, Dr. Grim "strongly encouraged" Tribal leaders to be present at regional pandemic preparedness conferences. "We will keep you informed about the dates of these State summits as that information is made available to us. A major purpose of these meetings is to reach appropriate individuals who will be instrumental in pandemic planning."
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